The announcement of the death of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader V Prabhakaran by the Sri Lankan army has not created any flutter in the Lankan refugee camps in Rameswaram and Madurai, but most inmates dismissed the reports as false.
"Prabhakaran is not dead. He will emerge stronger... nobody can touch even his shadow," Andrews, a refugee at Mandapam camp, said.
"Prabhakaran has been fighting for us for more than 30 years, we know his strength, calibre, as well as the strength of the Lankan army," Sivagnanam, a refugee at Dindigul camp, added. The refugees are also sceptical about returning to Sri Lanka, in spite of the promises held out by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha.
"Even if unfortunately Prabhakaran had died, another Prabhakaran will emerge. The LTTE was crippled by lack of arms and ammunition. It was not a real war, but a one-sided war," Velmurugan, another refugee and a retired policeman, said.
Referring to the Sri Lankan president's assurance that Tamils would be given equal rights, refugees at a camp near Tiruvathavur said they did not believe his words. "We want the Indian government's assurance for our safe return," said S Malini, a graduate from Colombo University.
"When we stayed there, the Lankan government failed to protect us. It was the LTTE which protected us. We came here because this is the place of our forefathers. Here we are living peacefully, though we get a meager income," claims Maheswari.
Vijayarani, another refugee, says they will return to Sri Lanka only if there is a separate Eelam. She lost her husband in the battle in the island and came here as a refugee. Her children do not know anything about Jaffna.
Though they were eager to see Lanka, they fear the army, she says. Meanwhile, security around the refugee camps has been tightened to prevent any infiltration. Additional armed police guards have been posted in all the camps.